Born in Scotland, John Pumphrey read German and Russian at Oxford University (1998-2002), where he was a scholar at St. Edmund Hall. He worked as a school teacher and Head of German at Winchester College in Hampshire before devoting himself to singing full time.
From 2007–2009 he studied opera on a scholarship with Stephen Robertson at the Alexander Gibson Opera School at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He was a member of the Flanders Opera Studio in Belgium from 2009–2010, and of the Opera Studio of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg from 2010-2012.
From 2014 – 2018 he was a soloist in the ensemble of the Theater Plauen-Zwickau in Saxony, and from 2019 – 2021 with the State Theatre of Nuremberg.
Roles he has performed in opera and operetta include among others Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann, Offenbach), Turiddu (Cavalleria Rusticana, Mascagni), Ferrando (Cosi fan Tutte, Mozart), Truffaldino (For the Love of Three Oranges, Prokoviev), Orfeo (L’Orfeo, Monteverdi), Frederic (The Pirates of Penzance, Gilbert and Sullivan), Prunier (La Rondine, Puccini), Oronte (Alcina, Handel), Ernesto (Don Pasquale, Donizetti), Spoletta (Tosca, Puccini), Don Basilio (The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart), Count Stanislaus (Der Vogelhändler, Zeller), Ecclitico (Il Mondo della Luna, Haydn), Doctor Siedler (The White Horse Inn, Benatzky), Pygmalion (The Beautiful Galatea, von Suppé), Beppe (Pagliacci, Leoncavallo), and Caramello (A Night in Venice, Johann Strauss).
John was a soloist in Vaughan-Williams Serenade to Music at the BBC Proms in 2010 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles at the Royal Albert Hall. In 2012 he was a participant in I SING BEIJING, singing in concerts at The National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing’s main opera house. While at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama he was a winner of the Tony and Tania Webster Prize for Russian song and the Hugh Robertson Award for Scots Song. In 2013 he won the Gabriel Fauré-Déodat de Séverac prize at the Concours International d’Interprétation de la Mélodie Française de Toulouse.
His oratorio repertoire includes the evangelist and tenor arias in Bach’s Saint John Passion and Christmas Oratorio, and the solo tenor parts in Handel’s Messiah, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and Mendelssohn’s Elijah. In 2009 he was a soloist in the thanksgiving service for the life of Robert Burns broadcast worldwide from Glasgow Cathedral as part of the Homecoming Celebrations. He sang in a staged production of Schubert’s Winterreise with the company Theater de Spiegel in Belgium in 2011.
He has been privileged to work with many great singers and accompanists in public masterclasses or private study, including Sir Thomas Allen, the heldentenor John Treleaven, Sarah Walker, Isobel Buchanan, Françoise Pollet, Sylvie Valayre and Roger Vignoles. Over the past few years he has been studying regularly with the Russian baritone Sergei Leiferkus.